Mr. Sem-Sandberg wants to re-create the chaotic, collage effect of Büchner’s play, but he also wants to fill in Woyzeck’s backstory, which necessitates a great deal more detail and exposition…. He does so with remarkable success in the novel’s standout middle section, which follows Woyzeck’s seven years in the Napoleonic Wars. Mr. Sem-Sandberg is eerily good at depicting the empty animal savagery of the front.

– The Wall Street Journal

Steve Sem-Sandberg‘s novel W. is now out in the US, published by Overlook Press.

Woyzeck is the story of a loyal foot soldier who, in a fit of jealous rage, kills the woman he loves. In 1836, this true story inspired Georg Büchner to write the play that would become a classic in European dramas. Sem-Sandberg basis his latest novel W. on the same material. It is a story of a lonely man who joins the army to escape his misery and participates in one of the many wars in the early 19th century.

Sem-Sandberg paints a picture of a torn Europe – a continent falling apart under the savagery of war, while dreaming of a whole new and enlightened view on the individual as a social creature. First and foremost, though, W. is a ruthless study of the vulnerable human being, of the abyss that, according to Büchner, constitutes every person.

In 2019 W. was nominated for the prestigious Swedish August prize. was also nominated for The Swedish National Radio’s Novel Prize 2020 (Sveriges Radios romanpris 2020).